The Norman Campaigns Book 1: Pilgrims With Knives
Posted on 03/13/04 @ 05:06 PM (updated 05/03/04
Half a century before the Normans conquered England, adventurous sons of landless Norman lords scoured the Mediterranean for fortune and glory. And in 11th Century Italy they discovered a land full of opportunity -- opportunity, that is, for men who knew how to use their wits and their weapons. Fighting off the Byzantine Empire, Saracen raiders and local outlaws, they laid the groundwork for a new kingdom that in the coming years they would carve out of this foreign soil for themselves. The first Norman Conquest had begun.
||Role Playing Strategy
|# of Scenarios:
||Empires: Retail Release
Note: The EDMW Patch 1.01 is required.
|Author||Reviews ( All | Comments Only | Reviews Only )|
|Ingo van Thiel
Pilgrims with Knives is an epic scenario with a deep story, good gameplay and great balance, an atmospheric map and a firework of new features.
Important: Make sure you have the patch installed before you play this campaign.
The gameplay was very good, and kept me fascinated throughout. The style is a mix of Fixed Force and RPG, and spiced up with extra features such as collecting tar and setting grass on fire. The playable cutscene in the cave really drew me into the game. The variety of gameplay was very good as well, with lots of changing objectives. Only the wave of trigger-generated outlaws marred the experience for me, as there were only two types of units (bowmen and berserks) and it was very obvious that they were being created with triggers constantly, as they suddenly appeared out of nowhere in front of me. I also think I found one small bug: If I defend the town successfully and don’t ask for my second trebuchet, I can still get it later, and the worker still says something like “The city is under attack, you say?” On the other hand, one might say that my pilgrims lied to him to have a trebuchet for their journey! Apart from that and the repetition of the spawning Outlaws, the playability was excellent.
I found the balance very challenging, but manageable; I sometimes wished I had more food, but I found it was enough –you just had no time to linger. Micromanaging your units is very important, and there is an interesting battle system where my villagers are especially strong against buildings, while my pilgrims are very efficient against other units. I lost once or twice, but always knew what to do. Especially the end: Only Rainulf survived in front of the gates of Naples, while his last two starving comrades dropped their swords and died of hunger in the middle of the last fight. My hero staggered through the gate and in front of the duke, with only a few hitpoints left and only seconds away before starvation would have killed him as well. And just when I thought Rainulf would collapse at the Duke's feet, I was victorious! What can I say? This is balance at its best.
The creativity of Pilgrims with knives was outstanding: The tar pits, the burning of the grass, the cave entry and the scene inside and the new style of buildings were features I had not seen before. I was also surprised by the flag-waving villagers after I rescued their town!
Map Design: 5
The map had a very atmospheric and “alive” feeling while I played it. Gaia elements were used sparingly, but to great effect; places such as the broken bridge, the tar pit, the monastery, the cave and the palace in Naples made me pause the game and marvel at the scenery. There is also a very good use of resized buildings and blending techniques.
There is a great intro bitmap that puts you into the right medieval mood, and the storytelling is top-notch. I have played most of Gordon’s works from the early days of Age of Empires onwards, and if there is one outstanding feature to rely on in all of his campaigns, it’s that he brings history to life with his storytelling. Also, the instructions are always sufficient and clear to understand.
Probably the best scenario I have seen so far for Empires. Congratulations on an excellent work! I am looking forward to the next instalments of the Norman series.
[Edited on 03/21/04 @ 06:18 PM]
This isn’t just a great campaign this is the best campaign, ever. The Norman Campaigns Book 1: Pilgrims With Knives takes advantage of all of the great features that Empires has to offer to scenario designer. These features are then melded seamlessly together to create a final piece of work that stands out as probably the best piece of work ever uploaded to the Heaven games servers.
The year is 1016; Rainulf Drengot steps off a barge and enters the Italian coastal city of Bari. The descendent of the Roman Empire, the Byzantine Empire continues to hold power southern Italy against the will of the Italians who reside there. The tension is so great in southern Italy that it could be cut with a knife. The man you play in this campaign, Rainulf Drengot, is actually separated from this conflict and is little more then an interloper who seeks to further himself in the world. This initial scenario, Pilgrims with Knives, is an introduction to the conflicts that are sure to arise within the Italian peninsula. During the course of this introductory scenario you battle pirates, outlaws and even Byzantine guards; all the while getting a feel for why the peninsula is in so much turmoil. With pirates and outlaws running around how can a place not be in turmoil?
- Playability –
The types of things so do in this scenario are fairly pedestrian as campaigns go. As Rainulf you will defend a city, save a farming community and obliterate any outlaws in your path. The thing that makes this scenario such a gem is the way all of these things are so seamlessly blended together in a compressive playing experience. During the course of the scenario you really do not have time to be thinking about what you should be doing next. This partly due to the fact that the food supply system (a system that forces you to collect food as you go along in order to survive) keeps you on your toes; but it is mostly due to the fact that the scenario is so well structured and that the instructions are so well displayed that you know exactly what to do next.
I did not find a single bug while playing through the scenario, however I did experience some lag at a certain spot. When Rainulf descended into the cave I could certainly see that things were starting to bog down. This did not really hurt playability as this was mostly a cinematic kind of sequence but it was slightly irritating nonetheless.
- The lag in the cavern is somewhat annoying, it is crucial element to the scenario but it would nice to see that lag toned down.
Final Playability Score: 5
- Balance –
This scenario is fairly complex in respect to balance as the player has multiple factors working against them. The food supply is probably the factor that works against the player the most harshly. When I played through the scenario there were multiple times when I had to reload as my food supply had run out. However, it should be noted that whenever my food supply ran out it was because I had strayed from the path and gone exploring. The food supply system forces the player to stick to goals given to them by the scenario which is good for continuity; but it also takes away from the freedom a player has to do things at their own leisure. I think it was better that the former was sacrificed for balance and playability, as scenario was a lot more intense because of the food supply system. During the fight with the Byzantine forces in front of Naples I was screaming to myself “Come on die already you stupid cataphracts, the food counter is about to hit zero”! Just as the food counter hit zero, the last Byzantine cataphract fell and I rushed toward the city gates with tattered crew. It is difficult to achieve balance like this in a scenario and thus it is highly commendable.
I never actually died during the scenario to force outside of the food supply which I think speaks highly of the balance in the scenario. The perfect scenario is the one that keeps you on your toes but never requires a reload. The second factor working against you is the fact that this is a fixed force scenario, meaning that if you lose someone you are not going to get a replacement. This is a good strategy to keep players rotating their units around during fights in order to keep them alive, I know that I did this is several battles.
- The food supply system can be a little harsh on players who like to explore, though it is not necessary to remedy this it would be nice to see a food supply system that doesn’t force the player to stay on the path. Possible solutions for this would be animals that could be found if someone takes to exploring that could provide you with food.
Final Balance Score: 5
- Creativity –
This scenario shines in the creativity department. The food supply system, the tar pit, the taxes, the brush fire and the cave are just a few of the highly creative elements in this scenario that really stand out. Personally I think I enjoyed the tar pit/brush fire exercise the most.
- None, zilch, zero
Final Creativity Score: 5
- Map Design –
The map is fairly mountainous and wooded, which definitely gives you the feeling that you are in southern Italy. The winding paths through the mountains really gave the scenario the Italian feel. The scenario was nicely littered with eye candy of various sorts, the cave entrance and the cave probably being the eye candy masterpiece of the entire scenario. The scenario was well designed so that it was easy to get from point A to Point B, which is extremely important, especially in this scenario, considering that you are battling time. The geography of the scenario is well done, mountains were accurately depicted and terrains were nicely blended for the region. Bari and Naples were on the opposite sides of the map, which shows that some amount of geographical research was done.
Map Design Improvements
- Not that I can think of
Final Map Design Score: 5
- Story/ Instructions –
The story within the scenario was fairly well laid out. A fair amount of information about the main characters was given, but not too much as to overwhelm the character. Since this was an introduction scenario the big thing that needed to be done was to introduce the plight of the Italians, and this was done fairly well through the conversations in the story. The instructions were well done as well, it was nice to see that added tips were given if a player decided to play the scenario on a lower difficultly setting. The thing I found most effective about the instructions was that there was a pause when you received a set of instructions so you had all the time you needed to read them.
- It might be nice if a little more background information about the character was provided in a read me or something along those lines.
Final Story/Instructions Score : 5
I highly recommend that you download this scenario, if you have not gotten that impression from the rest of the review. This campaign shows just what can be accomplished with the Empires editor.
Final Score: 5
|Field Marshal BM
Very very playable and FUN! great work! keep it up.
No problems here, good number of bad guys good number of good guys, nice towns, plains etc etc, good job.
This is very creative, nobody has even attempted somthing like this, Keep it up!
Map Design: 5
This map desighn was the best i have ever seen (right up there with "Crossing the Volga" and other big cmpns) i loved the little town you land in at the begining lol and i like the "Hellmouth tarpits" very nice use of ghraphic affects.
I had no problem with them, i knew exactely what i needed to do all the time, very clear and plane instructions.
WOW, lol looking forward to the next chapter! nice work!
I Loved the Special Abillites each pilgrim held. Only 1 question. How come When i revealed the map, i suddenly gained control of a giant guy?
The hellmouh really looked cool. Only for the saracen encunters, it would be cool if for each tribe you got a different bargain. So liek youy could buy som saracen peple.
The idea of having some pilgrims in their journy acroos euroipe with those cataphracts was aewsome. I'm an old ttime fan of age of empires II, so The cataphracts triggered good battle memories. It would be aewspme to if in part 2, you put the huns. That would be da bomb.
Map Design: 5
Hellmouth was again, aewsome. The grotto entrance the combining of building was aesome. The castles were cool to. I loked it.
Aewsome. I'm speachless.
When will book 2 be out?
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Map Design: 5
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This is probably the best Campaign ever. Can't wait for Book 2 to come out.